2008 already – time to get serious!

Frosty pyrancantha berries

Well, 2008 was ushered in a few days ago – not that I noticed, I was too poorly and laid up all over Christmas, my birthday (new year’s eve) and the new year to really notice. But luckily for me I got some great presents which have cajoled me into getting some serious plans together for my vegetable garden. I’ve already started extending the plots, at the mo there’s a third much larger plot having the grass killed off. Actually, the grass isn’t being killed off because the mulch I put down allows air to circulate. So I’ve got to try and put some other matter or cardboard down to encourage the worms to come…the idea being that when I come to dig in a month or so, it’ll be much less of a struggle. 25 I may be, but I have the family back problems and digging is miserable work for me.

Amongst some of my presents, I was given two pairs of secateurs (technically one pair calls itself ‘clippers’) – one for small delicate jobs like flowers and vegetables, and one very sturdy pair with a 10 year guarantee that are designed for chopping through rather large shrub wood and the like. Both are great, as I tried them both on the Christmas tree. Once I’d de-baulbaled and de-tinsled, I cut it right down to the innermost stump, effectively shredding the branches with my secateurs. It took me about an hour and half and a blister but I didn’t mind. Job well done I say.

The other useful present I got was a garden planner journal from my aunt and step-uncle. It’s a small book-come-filofax-type affair, with a special pouch for keeping clippings and seed packets. With loads of graph paper I can actually plan ahead this year and work out crop rotation properly, making the most out of the nutrients and space. Speaking of nutrients, we are off to some stables this week to collect a few bags of well-rotted manure. So this weekend I’m guessing I shall be muck-spreading, by my word, do my plots need it.

I was also given a mightly useful tent cloche by Rich’s parents – great news as it means I can now warm up the soil and get my parsnip seeds out soon. It’ll also be *really* useful if I decide to grow any brassicas or cabbages this year – the hens have a penchant for anything leafy and green and with the amount of doves and woodpigeons that visit the plots, I’ll be sure to need some extra protection!

Last of the garden-related presents were a £5 gift voucher (we did a £5 Christmas this year for everyone, worked out really well) for the garden centre, and some red and white onion sets. The red onions are Red Baron, and I can’t quite remember the name of the white ones as I speak, but my cousin grew them and assures me they’re great. I will also be making sure I get some Hercules onion sets in too, I grew them last year and have never tasted any onion as good. My cousin Deborah and I will be going on a seed-buying spree soon, I find it’s one of the most exciting times of year, planning the growing season ahead.

frosty web

Lately we’ve had some beautiful hard frosts – as ever I’ve been feeding the birds constantly and so happy that the blackbirds are finding extra food in the shape of berries on the pyracantha bushes. It’s nice feeding them out of feeders, but there’s something extra special about them finding food from more natural sources like the pyracantha, sunflowers and thistles. A few days ago mum had a small flock of goldfinches feeding from the veberna bonariensis heads – I’m looking forward to that as I sowed my verbena bonariensis seeds back in the autumn (plus, the bees and butterflies love them in the summer). Just hope the cats don’t start getting ideas…have to think up a plan to keep them away…

Cyn Before and After

On the hen front, Yoko is starting to puff away a bit more, so we’re thinking we might take her to have some of the fluid drained off. She seems to find it harder on the cold mornings, but her puffing clams down somewhat when she goes in the greenhouse after we preheat it for them in the mornings. Draining is only a temporary solution, but as she’s still scratching, feeding, bossing, and being generally chicken-y and happy, we’re hoping she has quite a lot of life left in her. Her cheeks are starting to billow more and more, so I think the vet visit is fairly imminent for this minor surgery. She’s always very weel behaved so we’re hoping that she won’t need sedating or anaesthetic. As things stand she’s still head of the tribe and seems to be happy, although slower these days – but then sometimes I get the impression she just can’t be bothered to run as she knows she’ll always get the best food, being head honcho. Cynthia had another bought of sour crop, but was treated with nystatin and baytril again and has made a full recovery again. They’re all having avipro at the moment to help bolster their good bacteria so we’re hoping she won’t have another episode. She’s grown so many more feathers, I can’t quite believe it. They just keep growing and she’s got more and more fluffy, such a beautiful silky brown little hen! I’ve got a pic so people can see the difference from a couple of months ago – it’s amazing. Maureen has stopped laying for now, but still eats like a horse. Pattie is the only one left laying during this cold weather, but it’s starting to be almost every other day now instead of daily. I think it’d do them well to take a break anyhow. I just wish Yoko would naturally stop laying at all – just have to see how she goes.

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